Kinetic Content owns the reality space for relationship shows. From “Married at First Sight” and “Love Is Blind” to “The Ultimatum” and “Perfect Match,” the production company knows what viewers want. And now, they’re branching out.
In early 2022, Kinetic EVP and co-head of development Karrie Wolfe read a story about how America’s love for “Yellowstone” was helping launch professional bull riding (PBR) as a team sport. Last year, the sport launched a team series, creating a whole new world for the sport — and for Wolfe.
“You have these billionaires that were bringing together these amazing bull riders, and it was actually happening. There were eight new franchises being established, and they were going to be starting this format, these competitions in July — there was going to be a draft,” Wolfe says. “There was this perfect storm happening where there was this craving for Americana, the Western culture and I think a global audience really hungry for amazing storytelling. ‘Yellowstone’ was a colossal success. ‘Drive to Survive’ on Netflix showed that you can take a niche sport and bring in a global audience of men and women. All of these things combined, when I read the article, I thought, ‘There’s a show here.’”
With that, she connected with Sean Gleason, the CEO and commissioner of PBR and began working on “The Ride,” Prime Video’s new eight-episode docuseries that follows star athletes Jose Vitor Leme, Ezkiel Mitchell, Dakota Louis, Eli Vastbinder and others as they navigate the ups and downs — both professionally and personally — of the sport.
Kinetic Content, founded by Chris Coelen in 2010, hasn’t taken on the sports world before. But they’re known for their emotional storytelling — something “The Ride” undeniably conquers.
“The way we sort of positioned ourselves to Sean Gleason was, ‘We produce one of the biggest global series. We have a stronghold with the streamers that a lot of people don’t — one of the biggest non-scripted shows on Netflix that was such a hit because of co-viewing,’” she says. “We really emphasized that this show had to bring in men and women, that it had to be about the characters and their stories, the human emotion. He understood right away.”
Wolfe had seen bits and pieces of PBR on TV — and had watched Luke Perry in the 1994 bull-riding film “8 Seconds” — but she knew nothing about bull riders. She started reading books, watching hours of videos and learning the rules of the sport.
“I thought it was incredibly visceral, but for me, there was always like a lack of connection to the riders and the greater reasoning,” she says. “Why did they actually get on that 2,000-pound rage-filled beast and risk their lives every single time? What is their motivation?”
Over time, she learned the answers to that. The team began reaching out to bull riders and began Skype interviewing the athletes to figure out who to follow. They searched for big and charismatic personalities as well as interesting and unique stories, and also asked the PBR for their recommendations. A few stood out early.
With a name like Chase Outlaw, Wolfe knew he had to be part of the show.
“He’s small in stature, but he has this huge personality and swagger. He’s got zero filters. He’s got a huge chip on his shoulder, because in 2018, he was bucked into a bullhorn and it shattered his face and he was told he’d never ride again. And not only did he ride again, he was back on in a few weeks. So we wanted to peel back the layers of this man,” she explains.
Then there’s Ezekiel Mitchell, a Black rider who supports his family financially and dreams of becoming a professional bull rider.
“He taught himself by watching YouTube videos and going to his high school library and reading books on bull riding. During the course of the season, you’ll see that something catastrophic happens to him. And it was incredibly emotional, and we happened to be rolling,” she says. “Our emphasis was always on the storytelling and human element of all this and then as we were filming, it just happened to unfold beautifully. So, we show the rights to and they’re beautifully filmed and they’re intense and visceral, but the heart of the show are the human stories.”
“The Ride” is executive produced by Kinetic Content’s Coelen, Wolfe, Eric Detwiler and Micah Brown. PBR’s Sean Gleason and Lawrence Randall also executive produce.
All eight episodes are now streaming on Prime Video.